AS hundreds of soldiers prepare for a potential transfer to Sarsfield Barracks shortly, their trade union PDFORRA says they have been “inundated” with concerns.
PDFORRA says many of its members are confused about their options and are dreading relocation.
Minister for Defence Alan Shatter last month announced changes to the structure of the Defence Forces which will result in the number of brigades dropping from three to two.
He said he was doing so on foot of a number of reports from the chief of staff and the secretary general of the Department of Defence. A revised ceiling of 9,500 personnel has been approved by the minister.
In a statement, the union says the downsizing in the numbers at arms has caused confusion.
PDFORRA said it was unclear whether the moves would be voluntary and that the proposed transfers of personnel from Cork to Limerick will have major implications for young families.
“There appears be confusion on whether or not the servicemen and women will have an option of voluntary relocation; and this is critical issue, as some of the related movement of personnel will involve members from Dublin relocating in Athlone and vice versa. Several hundred personnel based in Cork may also have to move to Limerick – and all of this will have significant implications for Defence Force families,” PDFORRA general secretary Gerry Rooney said.
“There is immense concern in several key locations about the criteria for relocating personnel - and it is now emerging that the actual extent of the movement of personnel is much greater than expected. It is important for all involved in this downsizing of the Defence Forces, including the Minister, to know that the Croke Park Agreement deals with the important matters of ‘reskilling’ and ‘voluntary relocation’,” he added.
Mr Rooney said the Defence Forces had responded positively to restructuring since the late 1990s “and is unique within the public service in this respect”.
“This positive and co-operative approach has not reaped a dividend and many of our members now believe that it merely served as an invitation to further cuts.”
The Department of Defence said PDFORRA were being consulted on the reorganisation.
The closure of Kickham Barracks in Clonmel last year, and the transfer of over 100 troops to Limerick, will require investment at Sarsfield Barracks.